Ari Gold has made a film co-starring Adrian Grenier. No, we’re serious: This Ari Gold, of course, is nothing like the agent played by Jeremy Piven on Entourage, which also happens to star Grenier. Gold's feature, The Adventures of Power, which opened Friday, is certainly one of the strangest films we’ve ever seen, and perhaps one of the funniest films in recent years. It’s the story of an air-drumming savant (played by Gold himself) who travels east with dreams of winning an air-drumming competition, intercut with the story of his family back home in a small Southwestern mining town, who are embroiled in a devastating strike. Somehow, this crazy mix — part zany comedy, part class drama, part loving tribute to Rush, and totally surreal from beginning to end — holds together. The result is the kind of cult film that has already divided audiences, and will probably set off fistfights among best friends. We know this much: We laughed our asses off. Gold spoke to Vulture recently about how long it took to get his film made and released, and about his now-very-special name.
So, what’s the story behind your name and the name of Ari Gold on Entourage?
They claim that it’s coincidence. My eyebrow is permanently raised, since I was in a band [the Honey Brothers] with Adrian for years before the show was created as a vehicle for him. I don’t know what more to say, because I certainly wasn’t consulted. I am not, nor have I ever been, an agent. I am a filmmaker who lives on Avenue C, rides a bicycle, and plays the ukulele. There are a couple more Ari Golds out there that I’ve met. There’s a singer in New York called Ari Gold who’s a gay R&B icon. And there’s another one out in Eugene, Oregon, who runs an organic bakery. I would say that he’s the Ari Gold most unlike the one on TV, but we’re all pretty different from him. At best, it’s annoying.
The music of Rush plays a big part in your film, and you made it several years ago. Are you irritated that you were there first, and now your film’s coming out after everyone else has gotten on the bandwagon?
The trailer was being shown around Hollywood a good year before other movies started getting on the Rush bandwagon. Rush knows me from several years ago, when I contacted them about the movie. They’ve been unbelievably supportive, I think because my movie has the real spirit of the music in it. I shot a video with Neil Peart last week, with him playing the drums and me playing air drums. He’s been beyond belief in terms of his generosity and support of the film. He knows who came first.
This has been quite a journey for you — you started making the film many years ago, and experienced several setbacks along the way.
Four years. The journey was in a large way one of personal discovery. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true. I mean, it took three years getting the film made. Then, I went to Sundance, and I thought, “Well, this is what happens, you go to Sundance and sell your movie, and that’s it.” That didn’t happen. It didn’t happen for a lot of people. At first, I was still waiting for the phone to ring. Then, I took the theme of the movie itself — of making something out of nothing. I realized I had to take the reins of the film and bring it to the world, because so many people did want to see it, and no one was going to do it for me. But now I have this huge team of volunteers all across the country who saw the movie at a film festival, loved it, and are working to get the word out about it. All the people who were sniffing around me at Sundance, who said they loved the movie they all vanished once the financial windfall didn’t materialize. Now I’ve got people working on my website, all these great comic-strip artists doing art work for us, and promotional people on the ground in cities across the country. They’re all doing it for the love of the film. It gives me a lot of hope. It’s nice to be surrounded by people for all the right reasons.
Why did it take three years to make the movie?
A year was spent writing and raising the initial money. That’s to be expected. Where it gets unconventional is that I shot over thirteen months — partly as a result of my own stubbornness, because I wanted to shoot all over the country. I wanted to shoot in the real Newark ghetto and in a real Western town, and to not shoot the whole thing in Burbank. But because we were shooting a low-budget film, with that kind of physical scope it basically meant shooting five short films: starting a production, wrapping it, taking it down, and then starting all over again later in a new location. So we wound up shooting over the course of thirteen months. We’d shoot a section with the actors that were in that section of the film. Then I’d go back to pounding the pavement trying to raise money for the rest of the next section. It was extremely long and laborious, and sometimes painfully frustrating, particularly when I had 75 percent of the movie shot. Raising money to finish was just as hard as raising money to start. You’re watching the seasons change, worrying about your locations getting torn down, or an actor not being available for the next start date. And then Sundance, and the period afterwards. It all felt like trying to turn a giant tanker around in a really small space.
Your film is a real tonal balancing act — it’s hilarious, to be sure, but it’s also at times painfully earnest. It’s a comedy that takes its subject very seriously, even though it’s totally ridiculous.
It’s a risky thing doing that in a comedy. When it works, it’s great — I have a lot of people who tell me that they cried during the movie or that they felt better for a week after seeing it. And I’ve met a lot of people who’ve seen it like seven times. But then there are people who hate this movie — because it walks a line that not everyone is comfortable walking. The people who don’t like this movie, they really hate this movie. They’ll go online and write tomes of hatred. I feel like it’s at least touching something, if they’re willing to go that far with it. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll love it when they see it again ten years from now. But maybe it’s doing something even more unconventional than I thought it was when I first made it. Maybe I convinced myself it’s a little bit more mainstream than it really was.
It’s easier to have a comedy be a comedy and a drama a drama. Sometimes this film seems like it’s missing a joke when it's asking you to feel the reality of what it’s about. Commercially, that’s a risk. But y'know, my favorite movies do that. Repo Man has a spiritual journey in it, even though it’s about aliens and punk rockers repossessing cars. Babe has that, and it’s about a pig who wants to be a sheepdog. Certainly in the editing room, there’s a line that I had to walk very carefully. Sometimes I actually had to cut jokes because they interfered with the drama. That seems crazy, but I felt I had to do that, to stay true to the story.
What was it like directing Adrian, whom you had previously known mainly as a friend?
It didn’t pose any problems. The issue was managing the reality of his schedule and the reality of his people wanting certain things from me — that always presents challenges when you’re dealing with someone who has such a machine behind them. But personally, it was a lot of fun — I know he had a great time doing the movie, and he brought a great spirit to it, lots of great ideas. People don’t think of him as a comic actor, but he’s hilarious in the movie. He actually didn't want to give up the costume once we wrapped shooting.